News & Blog: Advocate Spotlights

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A Lesson in Traditions

Guest Blogger: Kari Sovereign. Kari is an AmeriCorps Family Literacy Program instructor. She teaches English classes to parents in local school districts. We're thrilled that she is returning as an AmeriCorps member again next year. 

The Family Literacy English class that I teach at Cook Library Center quickly fell into a routine last fall with a group of Karidedicated English language learners. It was during the second week of classes that a woman with what appeared to be a large growth on her back came to class. Maria introduced herself and told us she is from Guatemala and has lived in America for 14 years. She is happily married with six children, five of them boys, and the baby is a girl.  With the help of the other women in class, she quickly assimilated and the session moved along smoothly. 

The next week, as I was teaching, I kept on catching glimpses of movement from Maria’s back. At one point, I casually looked over my left shoulder and found a very brown, extremely cute, eyelash-rimmed baby girl eyeball peeking out at me. Startled, I jumped back and whispered “Oh My!! Who do we have under there?” The ladies all began snickering as they realized I was not familiar with this rather common Mayan baby carrier, where the mother straps the baby to her back with sheets of cloth, so she can go about her day and include the care of her infant.

Maria unwrapped her 18 month old daughter, Michelle, and introduced her to all. Michelle was shy at first, but warmed up to us, and has been a delight ever since. I now receive hugs, and kisses on the cheek, and Michelle is the “Belle of the Ball” when she comes out of her wrappings.

I feel happy and honored to be teaching these women, as I too learn unfamiliar lessons from them. Our learning environment is a reciprocal, nurturing and respectful classroom, where the unexpected can become a delightful human experience. My life has been enriched by serving others in my community, as we all learn from one another and foster new relationships based on mutual respect.

Interested in being an AmeriCorps member with the Literacy Center? We are now accepting applications for instructors in the 2018-19 program year. Learn more at www.literacycenterwm.org/about-us/careers

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